For a Soldier

A salute of which we can all be a part.

The old joke speculates about someone who went to a fight and a hockey game broke out, right?  Well, how about going to a hockey game and a marvelously and spontaneously patriotic moment that transcended the game occurred.  I write about this because I remain so moved as to want to share the moment with my friends and also because it is the kind of thing that should be replicated at stadia throughout the land.


I had the very good fortune to attend the Monday evening game between the St. Louis Blues and the Vancouver Canucks.  First, I'm not a big hockey fan, but I really did enjoy the game which the Blues won 4-1.  I particularly enjoyed the abuse heaped on bad-guy du jour Todd Bertuzzi, who sucker-punched Steve Moore of the Colorado Avalanche to the ice head-first in 2004 and broke his neck and face.  The knowledgeable Blues fans were justly unmerciful to this thug every time he touched the puck.


The high point of the game occurred off the ice.  During the second period, a roving cameraman spotted a young U. S. Army soldier in his dress uniform sitting with this father.  The image of the soldier, a fair-haired youthful late teen-early twenty something was broadcast up onto the Jumbotron screen for all to see.  Suddenly everyone in the Savvis Center began to applaud, then to stand and applaud. 


Soon, the young GI was treated to a full-house standing ovation that transcended a mere hockey game.  Clearly uncomfortable with the sudden attention, he waved humbly to the crowd, red-faced and awed.  His wave only served to increase the roar.  Finally, this young American soldier stood to attention and snapped off a salute that would have made General Eisenhower proud.  The place went nuts.  His father, who remained seated next to him, had tears streaming down his face, as did many of those who gave the Army private such heartfelt recognition and appreciation.


I had shared this moment with others, one of whom replied that in the sixties he had been spat upon when he wore his Navy uniform in Chicago.  How glad I am that we have moved beyond such foolishness and, regardless of how we might feel about the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, we justly recognize the sacrifice and selflessness of the young men and women who stand on the front lines in our defense.  The ovation accorded this private served both to give me an opportunity seldom taken to thank one in uniform and also to reassure me that America continues to wholeheartedly support our troops, regardless of politics.


The Cardinals and other sports teams should take note of this event.  We have become accustomed to seeing groups of soldiers, sailors, and airmen march the flag out for the National Anthem, but we lose sight of the fact these groups are composed of individuals who are giving up significant parts of their lives, if not their very lives, to defend the freedom that we take so glibly for granted.  I would hope that more recognition might be afforded to the individuals like the nameless soldier at the hockey game.  What a moment!  What a country!


Rex Duncan


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